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University Libraries - News, Events & Exhibits

Mapping the Heavens: An Exhibition Introducing the Robert B. Ariail Collection of Historical Astronomy

Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Gallery, Hollings Library
Sep 13, 2011 - Oct 31, 2011

The history of astronomy and of astronomical discovery, from the age of Copernicus to modern astrophysics, is one of the most exciting for any science.  This exhibition celebrates Robert B. Ariail and the extraordinary collection of historical astronomy that he has donated to the University of South Carolina and the South Carolina State Museum.  Over the past half-century, Mr. Ariail built a collection that encompassed both historic telescopes and astronomical instruments, now at the State Museum, and more than 5,000 rare books and other published items, now housed in the University’s Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically, from the pioneer astronomers of the Renaissance to the major professional observatories of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Highlights on display include:

* the first printed star atlas, Piccolomini’s De la Sfera del Mondo (1540)

* Bayer’s Uranometria (1603)

*rare star atlases by Doppelmayr (1742), Flamsteed (1753), and, rarest of all, Bevis (engraved in the 1750s, issued 1786)

* William Stukeley’s Via Lactea (1752), an unpublished manucript essay on the nature of the Milky Way

Also on display are seven telescopes, from the S.C. State Museum's Ariail Collection, which include:

* a 2-inch  reflector, ca. 1730, by Claude Siméon Passemant 

*a 2 3/4-inch refracting telescope, ca. 1852, by the pioneer American telescope maker Henry Fitz

A fuller display of telescopes is currently at the State Museum.

More information about the Ariail Collection, digital facsimiles of selected books, and photographs of telescopes, can be found on the Ariail Collection web-site:

Regular hours for the Hollings Library exhibit galleries are Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The galleries will be open special weekend hours on Saturday, September 24, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, September 25, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.